50 years of WI fun and friendship

Nana (aka Mary Barrett) at a WI event.

The Women’s Institute (WI) movement has been inspiring women for over 100 years, providing opportunities to learn, to campaign and above all to connect socially with other women. This is the story of fifty years of fun and friendship enjoyed by Nana as a member of her local group, Farnley Estate WI.

Nana’s 50-year certificate. Own collection.

Nana was just twenty years old when she married Grandpy and moved away from her childhood home in Askwith to join her in-laws at their farm in Stainburn. It was 1948, petrol rationing was still in force. Jumping into a car to visit friends & family, even those just a few miles distant, was simply not an option.

Fortunately, Nana’s mother-in-law had a solution. What better way to introduce the Nana to some new friends than to take her along to a meeting of the WI? Farnley Estate had been formed just over a decade before and in that time had become an established part of the local social scene for women living in the villages of Farnley, Leathley and Stainburn. I doubt anyone guessed how much of a long-lived gift this turned out to be.

This photo, taken in Leathley Parish Room in 1977, is typical of Nana. She’s the woman in the red jacket (she was to pass her love of red onto her daughter, my Mum) with a beaming smile tucked away amongst the crowd. Photo from Daphne Baxter.

The Nana I knew was never one to seek the limelight and totally unconscious of how much she was liked and admired. Huddled in a warm coat and hat (village halls were draughty places) I imagine she stayed close to her mother-in-law through those first few meetings listening to “a demonstration of slipper making and rope soled shoes” and “travel talks from the dark continent.” I also imagine her quietly slipping into the kitchen at the end of the evening to help with any washing up.

It wasn’t long before Nana became more actively involved, entering the monthly competitions with some success. Her first listed win was for ginger biscuits in March 1949 and it’s no surprise that Nana, a dressmaker by trade, triumphed with her “apron from a shirt” in May 1950. Sadly, her entry in another 1950 competition “a perfect husband in 14 words” has been lost to time……

Photo of Farnley Estate WI’s 21st birthday celebrations at Leathley Grange, published in the Wharfedale & Airedale Observer on 29 August 1958. Nana is second from the left and my Mum is the child stood at the front right. Own collection.

In August 1958 Farnley Estate WI celebrated their 21st birthday in style at Leathley Grange making the front page in the local newspaper. Nana is standing second from the left in a wonderful polka dot dress which she likely made herself. My Mum, possibly toothless, is the little girl on the front right.

A WI jumble sale in 1989. Nana is on the right and the youthful one on the left is me! Own collection

This certainly wasn’t the last time Nana would involve her family in WI activities. As children we often went along to “waitress” at the legendary Teas on the Green, or my favourite, to help sort the clothes and bric-a-brac donated for jumble sales which meant being the first to spot a new jumper or book.

Then there were the outings which Nana loved, and this was where I was in for a wonderful surprise. I had a vague memory that Nana had once had a passport and may have even been on a plane. When you consider that my Mum, her daughter, reached her mid-thirties before taking her first flight it gives you a sense of quite how memorable this must have been. Yet between us we couldn’t remember the details. Leafing through Farnley Estate WI’s booklet “Celebrating 80 years” I came across a photo entitled “a member’s first experience of flying” and there in the middle of the trio boarding the plane was my Nana on her way to the tulip fields of Holland, which is coincidentally where my Mum is headed as I write this!

From the Farnley Estate WI booklet called “Celebrating 80 years.” Nana is the one in the middle.

Nana gave back as much as she received. She was voted onto the committee and was to hold the role of Treasurer although never President and it is not surprise that her commitment was honoured twice, close to the end. In 1997 she was chosen to accept Farnley Estate WI’s 60th birthday certificate Estate WI at the annual WI council meeting in Richmond, and then, in 1998 received a certificate for fifty years of continuous membership.

Sadly, this story of fun and friendship was to end just a few months later. The minutes from 1 February provide a final testament to the love and respect in which Nana was held by the WI.

A minutes silence was held in memory of Mary Barrett, who died suddenly yesterday morning. Members were very shocked and sad at the loss of a good friend and regular attender at WI meetings over the past 50 years”.

With much gratitude to Farnley Estate WI for the pleasure they gave my Nana and to Daphne Baxter & Sue Kerridge in particular for providing me with extra stories and materials, to Amy Johnson Crow for the #52ancestors challenge and Natalie Pithers and the curious descendents club for keeping me writing and of course to my Nana, who is much loved and missed.

The naming of our grandparents

My siblings & I have never quite agreed how to spell Grandpy (my mum’s dad). Is it Grandpy, Grampy or Granpy?

It seems, from recent consumer research into the names we Brits call our grandparents, that Grampy is now the more popular. Whilst I may have to concede Grampy is, in fact, a legitimate spelling, he’ll always remain Grandpy to me! Reading the research further I discovered that Grampy is particularly popular in Wales and the South West and my curiosity was piqued for Grandpy’s own great grandparents, Elizabeth Prout and Thomas Barrett, were born in Pembrokeshire and Gloucestershire, respectively. Could the name have echoes of distant ancestors? And what other grandparent names have we used in our family?

My sister Anna’s christening in 1979 taken in the garden at Hill Top Cottage, Lindley. From right to left, back row: Grandpy & Grandad, middle row: Mum, Grandma & Nana, front row: me, Helen & Anna. Own collection.

I was the first grandchild on both sides, so Mum was able to decide what our grandparents would be called. She had a Nan & a Grandma herself so decided on Nana instead for her mum. Grandpy was not, sadly, a historic echo but rather chosen simply as a name which was different and more fun. (As an aside Nana’s sister, Hilda, became Gam, which I also love). Mum’s relationship with her in-laws was undoubtably more formal and she avoided calling her in-laws by any name until I was born when she could refer to them as Grandma and Grandad. My nieces and nephews know Mum as Gran (as Nana will always be Nana, and Nan felt far too old), Dad as Grandad Bob and Mum’s husband as Papa Joe (of Charlie and the Chocolate factory fame).

An extract from Mary Wellock’s date book showing use of “Granma Barrett” to describe Jane Brooks. Own collection.

Mum’s grandparents were Nan & Grandad Booth (Marion Moody & Arthur Booth) and Grandma & Grandad Barrett (Mary Wellock & George Thomas Barrett). Grandpy, in turn, called his own Barrett grandparents Granma & Grandad Barrett (Jane Brooks and Henry Barrett), demonstrating conclusively that the name Grandpy did not pass from our Welsh forebears.  

An extract from Grandma’s memoires “The Changing Years” referencing Grannie Houseman and Grandad Michael. Own collection.

Dad only really knew two of his grandparents. According to my uncle, my grandad’s mum (Mary Abigail Clapham) was Grandma and my grandma’s dad (Jesse Houseman) was Grandad. As there were only two grandparents, there was fortunately no need to add a surname. Fortunate as confusingly both would have been Houseman! Grandma always called her own parents Mother & Dad, perhaps reflecting their respective family status which is also seen in how she referred to her own grandparents. Her father’s parents were Grannie Houseman & Grandad Michael (Amelia Bradbury & Michael Houseman) and her maternal grandmother was simply Grandma (Maria Reynard) “a refined lady.” Strangely there is no note in Grandma’s memoires of her maternal grandfather, John Scott. He had died just before Grandma was born so she never knew him, yet her other grandfather, Michael, had died almost thirty years earlier and he was still warrented a mention.

With seven Grandads, a Grandpy and a Papa, four Grandmas, a Gran, a Granma, a Grannie, a Nan and a Nana in our family we seem to mirror the modern research. Whilst 68% of men are known as Grandad the women show more diversity with Nan coming in at 33%, Grandma 32% and Nana 24%. Once again, I am grateful to Mum for choosing a more unusual option as a name!

With much gratitude to my grandparents for all their love and to Amy Johnson Crow whose 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge encouraged me to publish this series of stories.

Infographic presenting the main research findings on what we call our grandparents, from the original press release.

A ruby wedding

Nana & Grandpy’s ruby wedding. From left to right, back row – Nana, Helen, Grandpy, Mum, me – front row – Sharon, Anna, David. June 1988. In the garden of Upper West End Farm, Stainburn. Own collection.

We are simultaneously both a large family and a small one. With four siblings and five nieces and nephews, a family gathering is rarely smaller than fifteen and normally much larger. Yet we have but one cousin, who is more than a decade younger than I. For many years my siblings & I were the only grandchildren. My grandparents were grandparents, not quasi parents, but I think this goes a long way to explaining why we were close.

On my Mum’s side this was even more apparent. Mum had just one brother, Richard, and after he died in his early twenties, Mum became a de-facto only child.

Nana & Grandpy’s ruby wedding. From the left: Aunty Hilda, Grandpy, Nana, Anna, Hugh & Edna Ryder. Opposite Nana is Helen, to her right are Dennis & Dot Beecroft and to her left Uncle Henry & Aunty Marian. June 1988. At the Smiths Arms, Beckwithshaw. Own collection.

That’s why when Nana & Grandpy celebrated their ruby wedding anniversary we were centre of the action. Anna is sat next to Nana, Helen just opposite them both. Mum appears to be the youngest adult as we sit surrounded by Nana & Grandpy’s oldest friends. There’s Aunty Hilda (my Nana’s sister), Uncle Henry & Aunty Marian (my Grandpy’s brother & his wife), Dot & Dennis Beecroft (who hosted my Mum so she could get married at Leathley church), Edna & Hugh Ryder (grandparents of one of my oldest friends) and Rosemary Briggs (nee Booth) (Nana’s cousin and bridesmaid). Lunch was at the Smiths Arms in Beckwithshaw. Soup appears to have been on the menu & no doubt a roast. There was cake at home afterwards, not in the cold, rarely used, best room, but in the warm, homely, everyday room.

Nana & Grandpy’s ruby wedding. Cutting the cake back at home, Upper West End Farm, Stainburn. June 1988. Own collection.

In the end it is not Nana & Grandpy’s faces I see in these photos, but a forty year relationship, a close-knit group of friends and a deep and abiding love for my mother, my siblings & I. With gratitude to my Nana & Grandpy for being such wonderful grandparents and to Natalie Pithers for her mini-challenge “paper – ruby – wood” which prompted this blog.

Nana & Grandpy’s ruby wedding. With Rosemary Briggs (nee Booth), Nana’s bridesmaid & cousin. In the carpark of the Smiths Arms. June 1988. Own collection.

There’s snow and then there’s Yorkshire snow

468a Harrogate Road, Leeds, 8 February 2009. Own collection. The snow was much reduced by the time I returned home

2 January 2009 (Monday)

It’s been really, really snowy today. Setting off from Leeds was fine, bus & train running to time. London was a different matter. I arrived at work about a quarter to eleven – I was the only senior finance team member in! Times like this don’t happen very often in our lives and its worth just sitting back & enjoying the snow (& the now).”

In 2009 I was commuting from Yorkshire to London each week and totally bemused that London seemed to have ground to a halt that week. In Yorkshire hill farming territory, stormy weather means snow. Here is the story of three memorable Yorkshire winters illustrated beautifully in three of my grandparents’ own words.

The extracts in this blog are taken from: letters sent between Mary Booth (Nana) & Walker Barrett (Grandpy) in 1947, Mary Houseman (Grandma)’s memoir “The Changing Years” and my transcript of an oral history interview with Walker Barrett, recorded c. 2011 as part of the Washburn Heritage Centre’s archive.

1933 – “up in’t telegraph wires”

 25 & 26 February 1933 saw one of the worst blizzards to ever hit the British Isles. It snowed continuously for 48 hours and there were fourteen foot drifts on Yorkshire’s moors and dales. In 1933, Walker Barrett was living in Greenhow Hill, a particularly exposed Yorkshire village.

A lot of snow, 1933, snow were up in’t telegraph wires…..All that snow come right over the house top. Our cattle…. there weren’t water bowls in them days, they went out to the water trough. There was a snow tunnel…..trough well designed, cos it was turned off in’t house ….went underground and came up underneath t’trough, you see. Well designed cos they didn’t freeze up.”

Mary Houseman tells a similar story.  

I’m sure that winters were more severe then. Many times the roads were blocked solid for thirty days and we could not get out anywhere. We had to dig a path to get across the yard and often all the windows, taps and water would be frozen up. I once remember having to carry it all in buckets from the tank in the stock garth twice a day to water all the cows. When we started making milk we took it in cans to Norwood Edge with the horse and a homemade sledge. Some of it just stood there for days, the milk wagon couldn’t even get there. We carried hay on our back to feed the sheep. I have never worn trousers and my skirt got wet through trailing on top of snow drifts

1947 – “It took us all day digging through high drifts just to get across the yard into the buildings

Mary Houseman was still living at Prospect Farm, Lindley

The winter of 1947 will be remembered a long time or should I say early Spring. At the end of February came the worst snow in living memory. Day after day it continued. Each morning when we wanted to get out of the back door we had to dig it. It took us all day digging through high drifts just to get across the yard into the buildings. We were able to milk but nothing to put it in so it was just put down the drain….It was almost impossible to get to the sheep. We hadn’t a tellyphone [sp] so we were cut off from everything and everybody for a long time but we had plenty to eat and coal to burn. When the storm did stop three of our men and some of Baxter’s used to go and dig the lane out by hand as no tractors then. The snow was frozen so hard that we walked on top of it right across to Stainburn one Sunday. We could not see any walls just the treetops stuck out. The sun shone through the day and it froze hard at night like the countries where they ski. When it did start to thaw it was waist deep in slush. When the roads did eventually get a way through they were still a foot deep in ice and bad to travel on. The poor sheep were in a sorry state. Some lost their sight it was called snow blindness. We did eventually get them near home by walking in a line on the hard path where Dad went everyday to take hay. Some could not stand so they had to be carried in a sack. We gave them milk to drink to give them a bit of nourishment and slowly they got a bit stronger. I don’t remember loosing any but a lot of sheep on the moors were snown under the drifts and never found until the snow had gone. Food for cattle and people was dropped from the air for some farmers in isolated areas…..The road over the moor was impassable for weeks. Gangs of men with shovels and spades came to cut through the drifts. I hope we never have a snow like that again”.

Walker Barrett, now at Stainburn, continues.

We lost a lot of sheep, we did that year. But 47 snow. There were just eight weeks tilt milk wagon coming into the yard. It came in on’t Sunday when it started snowing that Sunday morning and it was just eight weeks on’t Monday before the milk wagon came into the yard

We used to sledge it down’t fields with horse & sledge and come out down at bottom of Leathley bank

He [Henry Barrett, Walker’s brother] was at Lindley….Although when we were blocked in at Stainburn he could go out every day. Cos he used to bring van and pick our milk up off road and take it down to his place to pick up

What Walker didn’t talk about in his interview is the impact it had on his & Mary Booth’s courtship. Their letters give a sense of how long the snow kept the two young lovers apart.

Extract of a letter from Mary Booth to Walker Barrett postmarked 5 February 1947. Own collection.

From Mary to Walker, postmarked 5 February 1947 “You did right not to come last night dear as the roads are bad around here…..I was watching the weather most of the afternoon then I finally decided that it was not fit for you to come about teatime….do come up any night dear when it is fit but please don’t risk it when the roads are bad.

From Walker to Mary, written 5 February 1947 “Well dear I am trying to write you a few lines but when’t will be posted I don’t know, we have had no post since Monday & the post doesn’t look like reaching here this week. Did you expect me on Sunday, I was sore disappointed, but it really was not safe to come, I could have got to Askwith but not back to Stainburn then I would have had to sleep with you dear. The roads around here are bad don’t think the Wolseley will be out this week. We shall have to cut the lane right from the yard bottom nearly to Ridleys & then it is blocked from the lane ends nearly to Housemans but there are 12 Germans started at the bottom end”.

From Mary to Walker, postmarked 9 February 1947 “The post man had to walk part of the way from Otley as it had drifted it again. When I saw him coming here I didn’t dare hope for one from you. As I’d been longing to hear from you all the week….. You sound to be well blocked in down at Stainburn. We’d heard from one or two folk how bad it was. It’s not much good digging as the wind fills it up again with more snow. We managed to get down to Otley on Friday but from Askwith to Otley there’s only way for single traffic so we just trust to luck that we don’t meet anything coming the other way….. But please dear don’t start to bike up as it’s too far in this weather and the roads are very rough.”

From Walker to Mary, likely February 1947, “We are pretty well cut off only open to the Bank top yet & it’s blowing it in again & snowing like blazes. I’m well & truly fed up, but I’ll pop in one of these nights. I intended coming tonight. I think we have got above our fair share of this snow up here many places the drifts are 6 & 14 ft. the Bank was full. I go through the back of Clifford & down the Bank with the milk…… our car will be lucky if it’s out for next weekend. I have never seen it since last Saturday night. I’ll have to dig it out & warm it up tomorrow & see what a car looks like”.

From Walker to Mary, 16 March 1947 “I am not so bad but fed up with the weather. Tt looks as if it will be Tuesday or possibly Wed before we manage to get the car out. Only Bernard cutting from here…..”

1979 – “special day”

Snow at Lindley in 1979. Own collection.

For Mary Houseman the winter of 1979 was far more memorable for the birth of a granddaughter than for the strikes which were causing such difficulties for the rest of the country.

1979 started with snow and ice through most of January and February we put electric fires in the parlour to keep it from freezing up and some days the milkman could not get up for the milk and January 23rd was another special day in our family. Ann got another baby girl, after a few anxious days wondering if we would all be snown in. It was a third daughter, but they chose Anna Marie for her name, a bit more up to date than just Mary. They were both well and soon back home to the ice and snow.

So next time there’s a sudden snowstorm that causes mild inconvenience, sit back & enjoy the snow (& the now).

With love and thanks to my maternal grandparents Mary Booth & Walker Barrett for saving their letters of thwarted visits and to Walker Barrett & Mary Houseman for sharing their memoires in oral & written form.

Two families, one community & a spurious link to Bonfire Night

Taken on Farnley Estate in the 1950s. Two families, one community. Own collection.

On a quiet Friday evening with nothing else planned I pulled out a few photos from the little leather suitcase determined to make a bit more progress on scanning & labelling the contents. Studying photos of my Nana & Grandpy (Mum’s parents) always puts a smile on my face and my wonderful Mum is always willing to share what she knows as I try to place the time, place and people.

At first glance I didn’t think it particularly special, some 1950s event at Farnley Hall where key community members, including my Nana, were invited. Whilst I love trying to make sense of these formal black & white photos, which may or may not have been published in the local newspaper, they don’t tend to offer anything more than a simple family snapshot does.

Then I studied the photo more closely and realised it featured not just one set of grandparents but two together with several more relatives including my Great Grandfather, Jesse Houseman.

Every living adult ancestor we had at the time was on this photo, taken together as one community, long before the two families were united in marriage.

A little bit of greaseproof paper & bad drawing may help, or may not! 1) Nana 2) Grandpy 3) Grandma 4) Grandad 5) Jesse Houseman (my great grandad) 6) Jessie Houseman 7) JB Liddle 8) Nicholas Horton-Fawkes 9) Reg Snailham 10) Clarice Snailham 11) Marian Barrett, 12) Robbie Trotter 13) Gilbert Trotter

Nana is fourth from the left on the front row, handbag on her left arm. Left of Nana are Clarice & Reg Snailham, neighbours from Stainburn, right of Nana is Marian Barrett, wife of Grandpy’s brother, Henry. Grandpy is stood behind Nana, face half hidden. Whether Nana was shy or (as I remember) someone who always put others first, you only have to look at the front row of shoes to know she wasn’t one who fought for limelight.

Then look along the front row and spot the woman peeping over the suited man’s shoulder. That’s my Grandma, my Dad’s Mum. She was not an attention seeker, but she also wasn’t a woman you would overlook. Grandad is at the back, bang in the middle, by far the tallest of my Grandparents so that placing makes sense. To his left is my Grandma’s Dad, my Great Grandfather, Jesse Houseman. This dates the photo to post 1954 when his wife, my Great Grandmother, had died.

The woman to the left of Jesse is Jessie, his daughter & my Grandma’s sister and to the right of her, her husband, JB Liddle. Grandma had one other sister, Muriel. Muriel’s brother-in-law Gilbert is right at the back left, face half hidden. Robbie Trotter, another of Muriel’s brother-in-laws (who according to my Mum was “allowed to go out” with my Grandpy & his brother because they were sensible and didn’t drink & drive) is prominent centre second row pushing Grandpy out of the way…

Two families, one community, long before marriage brought my two branches together.

And the spurious link to bonfire night? Guy Fawkes is believed to be a descendent of the Fawkes of Farnley. The man front left of this photo holding some papers is one Nicholas Horton-Fawkes, at the time, local landlord and owner of Farnley Hall, where this photo was taken.

With much gratitude to my Mum, who is always there when I want to ask questions about photos, to my Nana & Grandpy for keeping this amazing photo and to Grandma, Grandad & Great Grandfather Jesse for all being present on this day.

A Singer sewing machine

The Singer sewing machine today, own photo

My beautiful Singer sewing machine arrived home on Wednesday after many months in the repair shop and, with this week’s #52ancestors theme being “working”, there’s really only one story to write. This is the story Mary Booth (aka Nana, my mother’s mother) or more specifically Mary’s working life as a dressmaker.

Mary was just fourteen when she started work as an assistant at a ladies’ outfitters shop at the smart address of The Grove, Ilkley. Each day she would jump on her bike and cycle the four miles each way from her home in Askwith. Each day her sewing skills developed.

It was her father, Arthur Booth, who had found her this role and it was her father who bought Mary her first sewing machine, a Singer 201K1.

The Singer 201K manual, that tells me I should thread from right to left for this particular machine. Own photo.

This beautiful treadle machine was first produced in 1935. Top of the range, they were expensive to buy. “Favoured by tailors and professional seamstresses because of the large ‘harp’ space, to accommodate bulky fabric, they could easily cost 6 months wages and so were frequently purchased on credit” and I like to think was a the demonstration of a a father’s love for his female child.

Mary’s skills swiftly progressed, and, with her own machine she was able to take on commissions. Demand grew and by her late teens Mary had left the ladies’ outfitters: she was setting up on her own. In the 1940s people still tended to make their own clothes or commission others to do so. This was particularly the case for people of an unusual size or for special occasions. Mary had customers and a viable business.

The wedding of Hilda Booth & George “Bud” Nelson on 7 September 1946. All dresses (and accessories) made by Nana. Photo own collection

On the 7 September 1946, Mary’s older, and only, sister, Hilda Booth, married George “Bud” Nelson. It was eighteen-year-old Mary who made the outfits for bride & bridesmaids right down to the bright red fingerless gloves. Imagine the pressure! Yet, it also made a wonderful advert for Mary’s skills and wedding dresses became a speciality for many decades. Her own wedding in 1948 & her daughter’s (my Mum) in 1973 illustrating the longevity of her career. Family & friends aside (for Mary was a kind and generous person and known to undercharge) dressmaking provided a steady income for many years until arthritis finally became too severe to continue.

Fingerless gloves made by Mary to wear at her sister’s wedding. Own photo.

Yet what of this wondrous sewing machine? The first Singer 201K was a treadle and these were fast being replaced by those with an electric motor. Recognising the investment, Mary had a motor added and continued to use the same machine until sometime in the late 60s/early 70s when she finally acquired a more modern version with money saved from her dressmaking. The old Singer was relegated to an upstairs bedroom.

It is this newer machine that I remember, sitting in the corner of the main room that served as living & dining space. There was a bin of material scraps by its side, reams of materials underneath and an old chocolate box full of shuttles. It is where I learnt to sew.

A teddy bear I made as a child under my Nana’s tutorship. Own photo – the scanner doesn’t do it justice!

I inherited the old Singer machine, I think when Nana & Grandpy finally moved from the farmhouse to a modern bungalow in the 1990s.

I’m ashamed to admit that, for the last twenty years, this wonderful machine has acted as little more than a table for displaying family photos. Then, about three years ago, I bribed a friend, Rachel (with the promise of an afternoon of sewing with gin & tonic) to help me get over my nervousness. We lifted the cover, flipped down the front ledge and pulled the machine from its dusty lair. Rachel, always diplomatic, suggested that twenty years of being under a table had taken a toll and maybe we should stick to gin & tonic. It took me another year to find a repair shop (Tony’s Sewing Centre) who kindly suggested that the electrics were, quite likely, lethal. Fast forward through Covid and finally, the machine that gave my Nana independence is ready to be used again.

With much gratitude to my Mum, who always helps me with these stories, to my friend Rachel, who made me face what needed to be done to get the machine working, to Tony & his wife at Tony’s Sewing Centre in Tufnell Park who brought the Singer back to life, to Amy Johnson Crow whose #52ancestors challenge encouraged me to publish this story and above all to my Nana who we’ll always miss.

The Butterworth identity – a namesake clue

Thomas Booth (b. 1870) is my great, great grandparent. He lived in Askwith, a small village near Otley in Yorkshire, farmed sheep, died of “farmers lung” in 1929 and was buried at Weston Church with his wife Sarah. He was father to Arthur Booth, who was father to Mary Booth, my maternal grandmother (known as Nana). This much my Nana shared with me over 30 years ago. Without reviewing any formal documentary evidence, I thought I knew his story. Yet I was missing a single critical piece of his identity which in turn enabled me to unlock the story of his illigitimate mother, Elizabeth Dean.

We are a family of amazing women so when I picked up family history research again, I chose to focus on the women. Thomas’s wife, Sarah Cooper, came with a tantalising snippet of a tale about a mother who married twice, the second time to an older man. Over time I was able to evidence this and came to know better the stories of both Sarah Cooper and her mother Hannah Demain. Those, however, will need to wait to be told.

I turned back to Thomas. In pursuit of Sarah, I had visited Thomas’s grave, ordered his marriage and death certificates, and studied censuses from his married life. In all of these he was listed as Thomas Booth. Then an odd bit of evidence. The 1871 census listed one Thomas B Booth and this in turn led me to a potential birth certificate. When it arrived plain old Thomas Booth transformed into the far more compelling Thomas Butterworth Booth and the opened up the Butterworth identity.

Back to the women. Thomas’s mother, Elizabeth Dean, was my original brick wall. Documentary evidence was sparse and didn’t add up to a coherent picture. She was illegitimate, so no father on the marriage certificate. She died quite young, and so I had just one census as a married woman. From what I knew she could have been born in 1844, 1845 or 1846 in “Lancaster” but was living in Wilsden in Yorkshire when she married – a domestic servant without obvious roots.

There were no matching Elizabeth Deans born in Lancaster and too many options across the whole of Lancashire & Yorkshire. Finally, I hit on an effective search strategy. In 1851 she was likely still to be living with her mother in Lancashire. Focusing on those without a father’s name listed narrowed it down to two options. “Betcy Dear” with a parent “Bellow” living in Tatham and born in Wray with Botton didn’t seem terribly promising information, but “stepdaughter” did. When I opened up the record to see that the head of the household was one Thomas Butterworth, I knew I’d cracked it and with it the origin of my Thomas Butterworth Booth’s name.

1851 census listing Betcy Dear, Bellow & Thomas Butterworth

I still don’t know exactly when Elizabeth Dean was born but I do know much more of her story and in turn much more about Thomas’s early life.

Elizabeth was the illegitimate daughter of Isabella Dean born in Wray-with-Botton in the city of Lancaster district. A few years later, in 1850, Isabella married Thomas Butterworth, a quarry man and, somewhat less than nine months later, their legitimate daughter, Anne Butterworth, arrived. By 1861 Elizabeth had moved out of the family home and was working as a domestic servant in her aunt’s household. Isabella & Thomas had moved further south to Warley in Yorkshire likely in pursuit of work.  By 1866 Elizabeth, too, had moved to Yorkshire where she met & married Samuel Booth. Elizabeth & Samuel had two children, John, born in 1869 and Thomas Butterworth a year later and shortly thereafter took over the Booth family farm, March Cote, near Bingley. Elizabeth remained close to her sister during this time. Anne’s first child was named after her aunt Elizabeth, and her second, Marian, was born during a visit to Elizabeth in Bingley.

Sadly, being the wife of a small tenant farmer could be a hard one. Elizabeth’s son, John, died in 1876, aged just seven years old. Then Elizabeth herself succumbed to a combination of diabetes and pneumonia on 3 February 1880 aged around 36 years old. Later that same year, whether as a result of grief or the general agricultural depression of the time, Samuel sold his farm livestock and implements.

He’d been peering through the window when the man in the suit arrived. He’d seen his father’s face grow pale as the man talked, watched his body shrink in on itself. Now the boy sat stiffly opposite his father, toes straining to touch the floor, eyes fixed firmly forward. His father started to speak, to tell him something important, but the words just tumbled around in his brain making no sense“. (Author’s supposition).

This was the point that Thomas dropped the Butterworth identity bringing us back to the beginning of this blog.

With much gratitude to my Nana, Mary Booth, to Elizabeth Dean for naming her son Thomas Butterworth Booth and also to Amy Johnson Crow whose 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge, this week on namesakes, encouraged me to publish this story (www.amyjohnsoncrow.com/).